The Senate Appropriations Committee will address the backlog of veterans’s benefits claims at the Department of Veteran Affairs this week, according to Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
“When our veterans return from war, they shouldn’t have to face a quagmire of bureaucracy in getting their claims processed,” Mikulski, a Democrat, said in a statement posted to her website.
Mikulski announced she met with leaders from the Department of Defense, the VA, Social Security, and the IRS to lay out a 10-point action plan as part of the appropriations subcommittee on military construction and VA appropriations’ spending bill for the fiscal year 2014. ”It’s progress. But more needs to be done,” Mikulski said.
The 10-point plan includes providing $20 million above the budget requested by the House to upgrade the VA’s technology and servers, adding $10 million to pay for overtime and training for claims processors, and requiring the VA to provide monthly reports to both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee to document performance, average wait time, and errors.
Mikulski noted in her statement Tuesday that the VA reported more than 800,000 pending claims as of June 10, 2013—66% of which have been pending for more than 125 days. In March, then-VA secretary Eric Shinseki vowed to end the claims backlog by the end of 2015, and on Tuesday, the VA announced a new online application form that would allow claims to be processed faster. Last week, the VA said it managed to cut its backlog of claims by 74,000 since late April.
The subcommittee’s bill will be considered Thursday by the full committee.